‘Doom Patrol’ Season 1: Recap And Ending – Mr. Nobody Plays The God

During the first decade of this millennium, when comic book-adapted content came into prominence, the mere possibility of having a live-action adaptation of Doom Patrol would have seemed like an overly ambitious pipe dream, even to long-time comic-book readers. Fast forward to 2018, when the DC Comics exclusive streaming service DC Universe was launched on the eve of Batman Day and a “Doom Patrol” live-action series was the second original piece of content on the network. Initially teased in “Titans” on the eponymous episode, “Doom Patrol” carved its separate place in DC live-action continuity and received rave reviews from critics and viewers alike. Developed by Jeremy Carver, Geoff Johns (a veteran DC writer), and Greg Berlanti (co-creator of Arrowverse), the series gave an unconventional, unapologetically bold, and inspiring psychoanalysis of the titular team, all the while being a beautiful admixture of the most emotional expressions. We will briefly discuss the comic background, the first season of the series, and what made it one of the most unique comic book adaptations to have existed.


Comic Origins 

“Doom Patrol” is DC’s team of super-powered misfits who are shunned by society for their differences in physical or psychological appearances. A comparison can be made with Marvel’s renowned superhero team X-Men, but the former team differs in the nuanced and bare-all approach in portraying their characters (less superheroic, more humane) and the fact “Doom Patrol” was the inspiration for the creation of X-Men. The team made its first appearance in “My Greatest Adventures” #80 in 1963, created by writers Arnold Drake, Bob Haney, and artist Bruno Premiani. This particular super team differed from the others in the aspect that all of the core members suffered physical or mental trauma at some point in time, which led to their physical or mental disfigurement, and in turn, they were cast out of society. The superpowers they gained were more of a curse for them caused by those traumatic events or accidents, and as a result, the team members were least interested in the usual superheroic routine of saving the day. Isolated from society, they found an abode in the home of wheelchair-bound genius Doctor Niles Caulder, aka Chief. “Doom Patrol” excelled in its weird eccentricity, which reached its peak during legendary writer Grant Morrison’s run of the comics, from which the TV series is heavily inspired. His run added elements of absurdism, surrealism, pastiche, découpé, and Dadaism to the lore of Doom Patrol to make it even zanier and, to date, is considered one of the finest specimens of comic-book literature.

What Is ‘Doom Patrol’ Season 1 About?

After teasing the team in the first DC Universe Original Series, “Titans,” “Doom Patrol” divulged the origins of the core team members in its first episode. The first season of the series consisted of 15 episodes. The “Doom Patrol” team consists of Larry Trainor, aka Negative Man (Matt Bomer); Rita Farr, aka Elasti-Girl (April Bowlby); Victor Stone, aka Cyborg (Joivan Wade); Cliphysical, aka Robotman, played by Brandon Fraser (marking the return of the beloved actor in mainstream media); Crazy Jane (Dianne Guerrero); and Niles Caulder, aka Chief, played by Timothy Dalton. Each of the members was the victim of grisly accidents or abuse (in Jane’s case) and got a new chance at life with the help of the Chief. However, as in comics, they find it increasingly difficult to adapt to their new life, and a feeling of separation and identity crisis continues to entrap them. (More on their powers and appearances later.) After a villainous Eric Morden, aka Mr. Nobody, kidnaps their beloved Chief, they have to put aside their differences and form a team to rescue him. In their journey, they meet several colorful characters, travel through other dimensions, go back in time, try to save the world, and discover a secret so terrible that it changes their team dynamics forever. They get to know Chief’s involvement with the immortality project was the reason everyone got into those accidents in the first place, and that Niles wanted to unlock the secret of immorality by observing them from a close proximity. Although a remorseful Niles admits his decision to do so was motivated by very personal reasons and that he has since grown a familial bond with the team, the broken trust drives the team away. However, when the Chief and his daughter, Danny the Street, get kidnapped by Mr. Nobody, the team joins hands to rescue them.


What Makes ‘Doom Patrol’ Unique?

On the surface, “Doom Patrol” deals with the misadventures of the titular super team, which become progressively batshit crazy with each episode, and yet it contains some of the most poignant character moments, a clever nod to the medium of comics, a deconstruction of the conventional narrative mode, and the boldest efforts of representation in live-action comic-book adaptations, all at the same time, and more. Characters and their tragic pasts haunt them, and they have to face their inner demons to become better versions of themselves. Rita Farr, a popular actress from the 1950s, finds herself in an accident that alters her flesh with a plasticky substance and causes her to lose her form under emotional stress. Her inability to control her form, coupled with her isolation from a new world, diminishes her self-confidence, which she has to muster along with finding her rightful place. Larry Trainor, a decorated fighter pilot of the US military in the 1960s, accidentally immolates his body after a sentient negative spirit enters his body mid-flight. Burnt beyond recognition, Larry wrapped himself in medicated bandages and was forcibly separated from family and acquaintances. Aside from the tragic accident, Larry is constantly haunted by his life earlier, as he cheated on his family, effectively becoming an inept husband and an absent father, and also became a failure as a lover to his gay partner as he could never provide a foundation to their relationship in fear of public shame. He shares an estranged relationship with the sentient negative energy residing inside him, which acts as a metaphor for his life, and he must come to terms with the being to assert his identity and make amends with the past. Cliff Steele is a 1980s NASCAR driver who meets with a vicious accident that causes the death of his entire family and leaves only his brain intact. Niles Caulder makes a robotic body for Cliff that is operated by his brain. In an earlier life, Cliff Steele wasted his life in excess and debauchery and was too busy to feel anything. After becoming Robotman, a lonely Cliff loses the use of his senses and is unable to feel. After he learns of his daughter’s survival, he has to choose to become a better father and find his purpose. Childhood trauma fractures Kay Challis’ psyche, and she divides into 64 personalities to protect her from harm, each having its own distinct superpower, with Jane being the strongest “alter.” After trying to cope with several alters competing for dominance in her subconscious, known as the “underground,” Jane has to face her fears to truly liberate herself and heal. Actor Diane Guerrero portrayed the role of someone afflicted with dissociative identity disorder with perfection, and she played several personalities quite convincingly. Victor Stone is a teenage superhero who gained cybernetic body parts connected to his nervous system and body, essentially making him half man and half machine. Vic shares an estranged relationship with his father and blames himself for his mother’s death.

Aside from a slew of awesomely acted main characters, “Doom Patrol” boasts of a colorful assortment of side characters ranging from a certain Animal-Vegetable-Mineral Man, a muscle man named Flex Mentallo who flexes his muscles to alter reality (who contributes to an absolutely wild sequence in the season one finale) a gender-queer sentient street named Danny; a bounty hunter who tracks his victim by eating his beard (a parody of writer Alan Moore and Marvel’s Punisher); a zealot cockroach named Ezekiel; a vengeful rat named Mr. Whiskers; and many more. The weirdness hits all the right notes, and these characters not only add to the humor of the series but also contribute to much emotional baggage too. How much the series prides itself on being unique can be understood by the fact that the antagonistic government agency that is on the hunt for the team is named “Bureau of Normalcy.” However, Mr. Nobody, played by Alan Tudyk, can quite easily be regarded as the showstopper of the first season, as the actor channels the gleeful evil of the omnipotent, reality-warping maniac. With his self-awareness giving him the ability to break the fourth wall, Mr. Nobody tortures the team in various ways and narrates the events of the series as they unfold. The series portrays troubled characters respectfully and doesn’t merely turn them into someone to feel pity for.


“Doom Patrol” also excels at utilizing and respecting the comic book as a medium by using the figurative “white space” as Mr. Nobody’s pocket dimension. The series doesn’t bother much with explaining its crazy shenanigans and embraces the comic, cosmic weirdness (as it should) by making a world of magic realism seem believable. It also plays with narrative structures ranging from omniscient to unreliable narrators, and at the end, it’s Mr. Nobody’s narration and Rita’s assertion of free will in choosing her rest that further the experimentative style. “Doom Patrol” also successfully champions in becoming a platform to celebrate marginalized people, the outcasts, non-binary, and people with different sexual orientations and identities – and it was a trademark of the source comics too. In the “Danny Petrol” episode of season one, Larry sings “People Like Us” with drag queen Karupt, and the aftermath will be etched forever in viewers’ memories.

With its oddities, intricacies, warmth, brutality, and at times risky presentation, the subliminal sublime of “Doom Patrol” season 1 establishes its firm presence in an overcrowded superhero content arena. In subsequent seasons, the series has arguably positioned itself as one of the best superhero films to have been released to date and broadened the scope of the genre in live action.


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Siddhartha Das
Siddhartha Das
An avid fan and voracious reader of comic book literature, Siddhartha thinks the ideals accentuated in the superhero genre should be taken as lessons in real life also. A sucker for everything horror and different art styles, Siddhartha likes to spend his time reading subjects. He's always eager to learn more about world fauna, history, geography, crime fiction, sports, and cultures. He also wishes to abolish human egocentrism, which can make the world a better place.

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